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Online Survey Scams: All You Need To Know

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in SecurityDecember 09, 2020
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Who doesn’t want to make a bit of extra cash on the side by just answering a few questions each month? That is precisely how scammers lure unsuspecting victims with the promise of basically free money for just taking surveys. 

What is an Online Survey Scam?

Marketing companies and large corporations often use surveys to gauge consumers’ reactions and opinions about products and services. They offer dozens of legitimate survey programs where respondents get paid (usually via a gift card) for taking a few surveys per month. A few examples are Showtime, ESPN, insurance companies like The Hartford, Xfinity, and Target. Sometimes these businesses pay for people to take part in focus groups also. However, along with the valid surveys that pay you a small reward for offering your opinions, there are hundreds of other survey scams out there.

Statistics show that the online survey business generates about $1 billion a year and is expected to hit $7 billion by 2022. Surveys are a great way to take the temperature of the market and get insightful feedback to make changes to products and services that consumers actually want. 

Some companies like Showtime offer you the opportunity to sign up and be a part of their exclusive survey-taking group. Once you create an account and are accepted, you will be provided a few surveys per month to comment on shows and programming. The fun part is, not only do you earn reward points towards Amazon gift cards, but you also get to help shape the content played on streaming TV. 

online survey scams

How to Tell if a Survey is Fake?

If you see ads promising $500-$1000 a week just for taking surveys, it is probably a scam. Typically, you may earn $25/month in the form of an Amazon gift card. The amount might be slightly more depending on how many surveys you take, but legitimate companies do not pay you enough to quit your job and take surveys full time. The amount promised is a big red flag. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you are promised cash, that should also be a warning. Most marketing companies offer gift cards but do not typically send you money. 

If the scammers ask you to pay a “membership fee” to take online surveys, you are definitely being scammed. Legitimate marketers do not exact a fee from respondents; they pay you, not the other way around.

One way scammers get your information is to ask you a bunch of personal questions to see if you “qualify.” The problem is they can use that information for identity theft or to sell on the dark web for cash.

If the surveys sent to you ask a lot of personal information about your financial habits and details, that is also a red flag you should be aware of and walk away. 

If the survey comes from SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, and Samplicio.us, it is potentially safe. These are legitimate companies that marketers use for survey platforms. 

How Do They Lure Victims In?

A lot of scammers use social media ads to target unsuspecting victims. Some promise extravagant rewards such as lifetime passes or free food at big-name chain restaurants. Once you “like” an ad such as this, scammers can then access your personal information from your profile. Facebook is a playground for scammers and thieves looking to steal your money or your data. 

In a study performed by a Ph.D. student at Northeast University, he developed a detection tool and found that 90% of the online surveys he took were scams that included malware or spyware. Sometimes these scams infect your devices or try to steal your personal information. There is always an angle to what the hacker wants. 

How to Protect Yourself from Online Scams

Most surveys are anonymous unless you sign up with a legitimate marketing company to participate in ongoing work. If you are asked right off for personal details, be wary. Other things to look out for are:

  • If the survey asks you for money or personal information, walk away.
  • If the survey promises you cash and a lot of of it, it is a scam. 
  • If you cannot find a legitimate privacy policy or company about us page for the survey company, don’t trust it.
  • Don’t trust survey ads on social media.
  • Watch out for phishing emails inviting you to participate in a survey where you were not asked to qualify first. You must match a specific demographic, to be used.
  • Never share personal information online.
  • Always be on the lookout for things that sound too good to be true.
  • Do not click on links in email or open attachments.
  • If someone calls you unsolicited, do not offer information or bank or credit card details for any reason.

Your best protection against survey scams is common sense.

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